TV Tuners are becoming more and more popular as home theaters and computers start to merge. Already, many countries outside the US are making the move to integrated computer and home theater/entertainment centers in their homes instead of separate components, particularly in parts of Asia where space is limited. Of course, many people in the US are also beginning to see the benefits of combining their TVs and computers into one unit, and it seems reasonable to predict that this will be the norm in the near future.

We recently reviewed NVIDIA's DualTV Media Center Edition TV tuner card, and in the article, we looked briefly at the ATI Theater 550 Pro (again). ATI has had success with their Theater cards in the past, and now they are unveiling a new addition to the series, the Theater 650. This is the newest TV tuner chip/card from ATI, and like the 550 it's still a single tuner card (unlike NVIDIA's DualTV MCE), but there are some new features with this one that set it apart from the rest.

One of the most notable features incorporated into this card is that it has digital capabilities and is one of the first solutions to properly combine digital and analog TV reception, recording, and encoding in hardware in one solution. It boasts much better filtering capabilities as well; for example, it has a new motion adaptive 3D comb filter for better image quality. There are a few other features of the Theater 650 and of course we'll be looking at all of them further in the review.

We've chosen to limit the comparisons to only cards that are compatible with Windows Media Center Edition, in order to keep consistency between TV tuner applications. We will be comparing the Theater 650 to the older Theater 550, as well as NVIDIA's DualTV MCE. We'll be looking at not only image quality, but also CPU utilization between these three cards.

We were very appreciative of all of the comments and suggestions from the last TV Tuner article (the NVIDIA DualTV MCE) and hope to provide better coverage of this card and it's features this time around. Reader feedback is very important to us here at AnandTech and we are very concerned with what our readers want to see in a TV tuner card review. That said, in this review of ATI's Theater 650, we'll be looking at the card, its features and how it compares to a couple of other solutions in both performance and image quality. So without further fanfare, let's look at the ATI Theater 650 Pro.

The Card
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  • soulader - Monday, October 6, 2008 - link

    Does anyone know if Theater 650 PRO support time shifting?? pause live tv etc..
    thank you.
  • madprof - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Apart from being able to input tv signals, does this card not allow for the output of video back to the tv? i.e. playing an avi movie on the aux input of the tv
  • JustJack - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    A lot of people seem to like the Hauppauge cards, but I will tell you that if they dont come out with 64 bit drivers for the 250 for Vista, I will never buy another Hauppauge card! I think that XP Pro 64 bit has been out for over a year and they still dont have drivers for that version. The only Vista 64 bit drivers are for the 150/500.
  • edlight - Tuesday, September 5, 2006 - link

    You get a TV card to watch TV and hope it will make something fine out of the dirty cable signal (that's what those new filters are for) and will pull in DTV well.

    Instead we read about how it does with a DVD. No way.

    Please, think.
  • jonp - Tuesday, August 8, 2006 - link

    It's August 8th and I can't find any 650 tuner cards anywhere that are available. Does anyone (AT included) know when they (from any producer, ati, sapphire, msi...) are going to become available? Every article on the web said July. Hope this isn't more vaporware. Jon
  • toddbailey - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link

    I get all of 3 hdtv channels ota, big deal. I get more via satellite.
    But can I record any of them onto my PC? Oh Hell NO! When are the people who make this stuff going to build something I can actually use? I and very possibly several others want a device to capture component, rgb, dvi or hdmi video signals. The closest I found is component to sdi on firewire, but sad to say it's only ntsc resolution.
    For those who have capture via firewire, more power to you, But for my service (no cable tv available in my area), Dish network doesn't offer this capability.

    any one want to em me in person ? talk to me at
  • Wellsoul2 - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link


    I have the ATI HDTV wonder tuner card and it works fine.
    Excellent 1080i picture from ATSC tuner. Easylook software ok.
    Remote ok. Works fine with ATItools and updated drivers etc.
    Runs fine with 9600XT and 146Opteron.

    What software/hardware will give me better experience with OTA ATSC?
    Forget NTSC..I have ancient Hauppauge cards that do it fine.

    Why should I spend more money and what benefit?
    I don't care about qam or Windews Megamedia monopoly..

    For free I already get a great HDTV picture OTA. Maybe I could use hardware
    encoding or filtering on DVD's.
    Paid $75 for a used HDTV wonder with Antenna and remote..why pay more?
    Also..what is DVD/HDTV benefit upgrading video card?
    SOme say 1600 ATI only does 780p and you need 1800plus to do 1080i..
    WHat does this mean? will it really help my OTA HDTV experience?
  • millerbrad - Monday, June 19, 2006 - link">The specs on ATIs website indicate that this cards uses 720x480 MPEG-2 compression.

    Does this mean that the cards won't actually output 720p or 1080i resolutions when watching digital television?
  • Wellsoul2 - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link

    It seems to say it does hardware MPEG2 compression at that resolution.

    ATI's info is not great but my lowly HDTV Wonder card does software
    compression in MPEG4 at a higher resolution so I assume this card
    will do SOFTWARE compression at higher resolutions for recordings. can definitely watch at's referring to recordings to your
    hard drive.
    It probably also does time shifting and recording HDTV since my older
    HDTV wonder will do that. You take a hit with software encoding since
    your CPU does it.

    Hopefully Anandtech can explain this further since I am a novice.

  • MrJim - Saturday, June 17, 2006 - link

    Is there a cheap good Tv-card which has both hardware encoder/decoder?

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